Rob Shallenberger: Welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is Rob Shallenberger, and I hope you’re having a fabulous day wherever you’re at in the world. You know, for those who listen to this in the next week or so, in Utah we are just starting into the fall colors. So, you’re just starting to see some orange and red in the mountains. It’s a beautiful time of the year. We have a garden growing right now and I noticed that next week the low is going to be 28 degrees Fahrenheit. So that’ll be the end of most of our garden next week, but you know, I love this time of year. There’s a lot of cool things happening as we go into the fall.
So, on this podcast, speaking of that, I want to focus on two things, specifically: gratitude and hope. Fall happens to be my favorite time of year. I’m not sure it’s my wife’s because she knows that winter is imminent and that summer is fading away. But, I really want to focus for just a few minutes, on gratitude and hope, two very powerful emotions and things that we can focus on that will have a big impact on our life. And I’ll explain why I want to take just a minute on both of these.
So, let’s start with gratitude. I went through a seven-day gratitude series, and it actually took me 13 days, to go through it. I spent, what averaged out to be about every other morning, doing a meditation. I went on my back porch at the sunrise and I would just focus on being present and I listened to this – I call it a guided meditation – it was just, like I said, a gratitude series, focused on gratitude. And I learned some interesting things from doing that. I want to share a couple of those with you and hopefully, it may resonate with some of you that are listening, and it will get the wheels spinning as to what it might mean in your life.
I want you to think about just a couple of things. What are the enemies of gratitude? Probably there’s a lot of ways to answer that. One is, comparing ourselves to others because there will be never enough on one way or the other. Let me explain what I mean by that. There will always be someone better, richer, more handsome, or pretty, etcetera. There’s always going to be someone out there that’s higher than we are in whatever way we’re evaluating ourselves against them. There will also be someone who isn’t as rich, doesn’t have as much money, is not as handsome or pretty, and so on. So, there’ll be someone on the other side of the scale as well. So, comparing doesn’t help on either side of the equation. And if we’re always looking at the other person who has more, we’ll never be satisfied and be able to enjoy the present. On the same note, if we’re always comparing ourselves to the other person that has less, it can breed a sense of complacency and potentially stunt our growth, because we say, “Oh, we’re doing great compared to so and so”, right? Instead, the focus is on living in the present while still maintaining an eye towards our vision. That’s what this is all about. It’s how do we live and enjoy the present? How do we be in the present, while still keeping an eye towards our vision? So, there should be this sense of gratitude and living in the moment, yet continuing to get better and improving ourselves, realizing that that’s a lifelong journey towards accomplishing our vision.
Every day, we can identify what we’re grateful for. And, in my opinion, once we do that, we can acknowledge God’s hand in our lives. So, what we would do, or what I did in this meditation, and the person who was doing this would walk me through is really just teaching me how to be present in the moment. It was interesting. So, here’s one thing that I would invite you to consider, is to focus on setting aside a few minutes this week to meditate. You know, the more times you do it, the better and what I’ve learned from this – and I’ve meditated and done yoga for a long time, so this isn’t new, but the focus on gratitude over this seven-day gratitude series was new. And so, you can do a ten-minute meditation or a five-minute meditation, anybody can do this. You can make time in the day at some point, maybe it’s the evening, the morning, whatever works best for you, but find a few minutes that you can set aside to meditate. And when you do, allow your mind to be present, and simply acknowledge what you are grateful for.
Maybe it’s an active brain and the ability to think. My mom has lost that. She has early-onset Alzheimer’s. she was diagnosed 10 years ago and at this point, she can’t put together a sentence, doesn’t recognize us anymore. And so, man, I’m thankful for a brain every day. I’m thankful for the ability to reason and think and put together sentences. You know, think about your healthy body – even if you have something going on in your body, there are other parts that are working. So even if a part’s not, focus on what is, a liver, a kidney because for every one of those someone has it that’s not working. So, the fact that it is, is a blessing. How about the roof over your head, access to food. If you’re doing this outside, just listen to the birds chirping. It’s interesting to do that. It really brings us into the moment, if you will. You can listen to the leaves rustling on the trees.
So, all I’m suggesting is that during these meditations when we really start to look inward and just be present with what’s happening to our body and the things around us, it can really transport us to a different place, a much better place. Versus when we scroll through social media, it’s so easy to say “Well, look at so and so. Oh, look what they’re doing. Oh, they just bought this. They just bought that. Oh, look how perfect their kids are.” You know, and that’s just a trail that none of us will go down successfully. It’ll never be enough. Jeff Bezos, he has $200 billion now net worth financially. Someone will surpass him someday. So, it just never does any good to compare ourselves to others. This is a race between us and ourselves. It’s staying present, being grateful for what we have right now while keeping our eye towards a vision so that we’re also not complacent in that journey. And there’s a balancing act, I guess you call it a good tension, that goes on between living in the moment, while not being complacent and still focusing on improving.
So, I’d invite you to consider doing a couple of things. Do your own gratitude series over the next few days; take just a few minutes, meditate, focus on all the things that you really have, that you’re grateful for because you could number these into the hundreds and the thousands. And the second – you know, this may or may not apply to some of you – consider taking a social media break. If you’re spending more than 10-15 minutes a day on Facebook or Instagram or name the site, consider taking a break from that and just see what impact it has. And it doesn’t need to be a permanent break, but maybe a week or two weeks and just see how you feel while you’re focusing on this gratitude. For me, it’s been a pretty awesome experience, I’ve now been primarily off of social media for now going on two months, and it really has been – just one word to sum it up would be – great. And I’ll still go there for work and other things periodically, but it’s been a nice break. All right, so that was the first topic – gratitude. Having an attitude of gratitude can cure so many ills in our lives. And so, I would just ask and invite us all to be – instead of comparing to others and things like that – grateful for what we have, while still keeping our eye towards a vision and working towards the future.
The second is hope. Let’s talk about hope for just a couple of minutes. This is interesting, I do believe that there’s a God and I do believe there’s a Devil. Hope, in my opinion, is from God. Hopelessness is from the adversary. In the New Testament, in Matthew 24, he’s talking about the last days and there’s this statement in there where it says, “In the last days, men’s hearts shall fail them.” And there’s a lot of different ways to interpret this. There’s a cardiovascular surgeon who I know, who said, “I think that this means people are going to have heart disease.” And that certainly could be one way to look at it. In my opinion, while there are multiple ways to look at it, one of the ways that we’re seeing this happening right now is people are losing hope. I mean, think about that, think about your own family members, think about your friends, your coworkers. COVID, in many cases, it’s just been an accelerator for this, it’s like it had been an injection of anxiety in our society. And so, this is something that will touch each one of us, whether it’s our family, friends, or coworkers. And each of us can play a role in this. Let me give you an example of this.
We co-wrote a book, that many of you have read and ordered, called ‘Conquer Anxiety’. We wrote it with Jon Skidmore, who’s a licensed psychologist. I was talking with him a couple of weeks ago and he said that anxiety right now is at an all-time high. He’s never been busier. So, for him, the business has been great. But that’s not a good thing when you’re talking about anxiety here. COVID has put a lot of people in a tough position – or I should say, what’s happening in the world as a result. And this is when we need to believe and have hope. And if we watch the news, if we watch Fox News or CNN or Drudge Report or name the site, 16 out of 17 news stories on average are negative.
So that doesn’t fuel hope very well if we’re always engaged in the news and watching what’s happening in the world, because primarily, it’s going to be negative. Right? I mean, just about everyone listening to this is already familiar with the divide that exists, at least in the United States, right now. They’re just becoming more polar and polar, these extremes, and people aren’t even able to have conversations anymore. And I just want to share one story that I read about last night, as it relates to hope. If we can flip off the news and not be inundated by what the media is portraying happening in the world, then we can also buy into the fact that there are still thousands and millions of people out there doing great and amazing things. And actually, while there is a lot of negativity in the world, this is also a great time to rekindle hope.
So, let me give you an example of this. Yesterday I read about a lady in Heber city where I live. And she was explaining to some people at Smith’s – a supermarket here in the United States – that someone had just stolen the cash out of her purse. And her social security payment was in that, that’s what she was going to use to pay for her food, and it was gone. So, there was a small group of people around her. Well, a UPS driver was nearby, he overheard this lady talking I’m guessing probably near tears. As she was talking about what just happened, he walked up to her, he pulled out a significant amount of cash handed to her, and said, “I can get more of this, you need it more than I do”. And then he walked away. And the lady who posted this on this Facebook group around the Heber Valley, where I live, it was one of the people in that circle who watched this interchange happen. And she just said it was so amazing to see someone do what that UPS driver did. And I don’t know, but I would guess that that UPS driver wouldn’t be “rich”. Yet, he gave a lady hope. He did something that was far above and beyond what anyone would ever expect or anticipate doing. And you watch that one ripple effect. I looked through the comments on that thread and the comments were people saying “Oh, that’s so great!”, “There are people in the world that are doing nice things.” And that was a story of hope. And I thought, man, there are still so many good people in the world. It’s just we’re being inundated by the news, which would make it sound like the world’s pretty much going to pot.
And so, a couple of things to think about. If you feel that this is affecting you, if you felt anxiety increase, or if you felt your hope start to waver in any way, I’d encourage you, first of all, to turn off the news. There’s this acronym that we use in our conferences GI-GO, greatness in, greatness out. What we put in is what we can expect out, it’s kind of like a computer. You know, you can’t access a file that’s not there. Well, the brain is the same way – we put a file in, we can access that file. So, the question is, what files are we uploading to our brain? And the more positive, the more good that we can upload to our brain, the more we can draw on. If we’re constantly inundating our brain with negative, well, then you can flip that acronym and say, GI-GO garbage in, garbage out. And it will impact our emotions and other things. So, I would encourage you that if you’re feeling any of this, to turn off the news for a little while, and instead look for different positive outlets. Podcasts like this, there are other podcasts out there, in fact, there are thousands of them that are uplifting and they’re good and they’re focused on the things that we can control. So, flip that! Instead of garbage in, garbage out, put greatness in, and then we can expect greatness out. So all I’m inviting us to consider is to replace doubt and fear with hope and love. We need to believe that everything will work out for our good, and then live accordingly, because faith and fear cannot coexist together.
And I would hope that we can rekindle our own faith in a darkening world because there are thousands of people like that UPS driver out there and that we can start in our own family and be cognizant of their needs. You know, not just assume that the people around us are good to go. There can be a pretty tumultuous battle going on inside of someone that we’re not even aware of. And so, this is why it’s important for each one of us as leaders, leading our own lives, our families, and the influence that we have around us to reach out, to talk with people, ask how they’re doing, not just at the surface level, but to go a little bit deeper. That’s where we can actually play a role in bringing hope to other people’s lives. Because I do believe – what was said in Matthew 24 – their hearts shall fail, and I’ve seen it happen in people all over in communities, I’ve seen it on Facebook. This is where we as leaders can step up and lead. It starts with our own lives. It starts with having faith and replacing fear with faith. And I do believe that that starts with our mindset internally and really believing that it’s true. So, what I hope is that just this brief conversation has helped spur some ideas, has helped us think about what might matter most in your life. So, with the gratitude side of it, consider meditating a few times this week with a real focus on what you’re grateful for. Start with your body, what do you hear around you? You know, anything that you have in your life that’s been good for you, focus on those things. Limit social media if necessary. And anytime you start feeling any envy or jealousy of any kind, replace it with something you’re grateful for, and acknowledge God in that. In my opinion.
And second is hope. Turn off the news. Replace instead with messages of hope, faith, and things that are uplifting, because that’ll spur a lot more ideas of what we can do to contribute to make the world a better place when the news and media would cast it as a darkening world. So, we need more good out there. And when you see it, acknowledge it, share it with family. I would invite you – like I’m trying to do with my family – to be more cognizant of the feelings and the emotions that exist not only within myself, but the people around us. And so, that’s some of the good that can come from COVID, and some of these other things that have happened in the world – they can really turn us inward as to what we can do with ourselves to get to a better place and with those around us.
So, I hope this has been beneficial. Thank you for joining us. We look forward to these podcasts every week. We hope they’re beneficial to you in some way. So, between now and next week, we hope you have a fabulous day and a great week. Thanks again for joining us!
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger – and we have a couple of amazing guests with us today! Welcome, Ginni and Michelle!
Michelle Sorro: What an honor to be here!
Ginni Saraswati: Hi, Steve! It’s great to be here again!
Steve Shallenberger: All righty! And this isn’t just one guest, my friends! It’s two. This is like double trouble! Lookout, we’re gonna have a great time! Okay, well, before we get started today – and this is going to be fun to our wonderful listeners; I think there will be a lot of insights that you’re going to have. We’re going to pull back the curtain of what is happening behind this curtain in the world of podcasts because we have two of the very best in the whole world right with us today!
Steve Shallenberger: So, first, let’s just talk about Ginni. Her family migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka when she was just two years old, and in the first few weeks at preschool, she did not speak because of her shyness and her lack of confidence, being the kid who looked different from everyone else. But, it was through the encouragement of her teachers and best friend that gave her the confidence to speak up. And now, with a career spanning over a decade in broadcast radio, Ginni has featured on two breakfast shows in Melbourne, she’s also a host of three podcasts – which she gets around; these are wonderful – and recently signed to Nova Entertainment, one of the leading broadcast networks in Australia. She’s currently based in New York City, and heads up Ginni Media, and works with over 20 clients in podcast coaching, distributing, marketing, and creation. She started this solo podcast in 2016, and she has just received so many credits! It’s amazing! So, Ginni, we’re excited to have you with us!
Ginni Saraswati: Thank you, Steve! What an introduction! I’m really, really grateful to be here. And, you know, I’m a big fan of yours and everything that you teach leaders – and you’ve definitely influenced me and my team. So, I’m grateful to be here and share this space with you and Michelle.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, great! And Ginni has a wonderful business partner, Michelle. She is the founder of Live Video Academy, co-founder of the Podcast Accelerator – which we’re going to hear a little bit more about here, in this show – a TV retail host and host of the ‘Fire and Soul’ podcast, a top 10 in self-development. Let’s just tell you a little bit more about her because one of her expertise is how to develop a high-converting pitch to sell online with live video, and how to create and launch a published podcast and cultivate a deeply engaged online community. Here’s a couple of fun things about Michelle: she’s hosted ‘Deal Drop’ on Emmy-winning entertainment news shows, Extra – and her job was to convert viewers to customers and move thousands of units of inventory in 15 seconds per product. That’s no piece of cake! It’s an extremely demanding challenge to deliver the exact right message to achieve the sales quota within this tight timeline. So, she is amazing!
Steve Shallenberger: And I just would say this one thing before I ask a question of each of them, and that is that they have partnered up to create the Podcast Accelerator – a comprehensive step-by-step guide, a process, a service to creating and launching the podcast of your dreams. So, this is going to be great! They’ve poured their heart and soul into delivering their customers the most value in the world, in this marketplace. So, let’s jump right into our questions here! And the first one I want to ask is, let’s start with Ginni and then we’ll go to Michelle, tell us about your background – like, any turning points. How did you get to where you are today?
Steve Shallenberger: How did we get to where we are today… Well, it started with, I guess, my story as being a Podcast Producer coming to America, I went all-in on my podcast producing business and that’s when I connected with the lovely Michelle. She was looking to start a podcast and I’ll let her explain her story in that way. However, when I met Michelle, it was love at first call. We were very aligned, we both liked the same people, we were both inspired about the same people or from the same people. And then, working with her I think, from any other client of mine, she really has been wearing many hats. She’s a friend, she’s a coach, she also calls me out on my crap – I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that on the podcast, Steve, but I just did – and she’s also very, very authentic and heart-centered, which is such a unique mix to get that in a client and a friendship and all these layers of relationship that we have. She’s just a superhuman being. And I think last year she called me, she said, “Hey, what do you think about starting a program for podcasters?” And I’m like, “Great!” And we both had this crazy vision to take 30 plus people through a program and launch 30 plus podcasts on one day, and we both co-signed on each other’s crazy. And here we are, Steve, where we’re about to run our third program in a couple of weeks. And it’s just super exciting to share that journey with someone who is so aligned with your values and so committed to impacting people and serving people the way that you intend to, as well.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, great. Okay, Michelle!
Michelle Sorro: Wow, Ginni! I’m sitting here getting all goosey-bumped. I was so touched by those words – and you say that to me directly, so, it still is never lost on me. You know, Steve, Ginni just really explained the timeline really well. It was just a little north of two years ago, and I wanted to start a podcast but had no idea where to begin or how to do it. And, after a couple of months of doing extensive Google searches, I was more confused after that than I was before I started. And I just feel like I was getting mixed messages and I just was more overwhelmed and felt more alone than before I started my deep research. And that’s where I believe grace intervened and connected Ginni and I. And it was love at first phone call and we were very aligned. I launched my podcast. By the way, I did not know there was such a thing as a Podcast Producer back then. I had been in television for 10 years, as you mentioned earlier; I always knew about television and film producers, but I didn’t know there was such a thing. And Lord, thank you for this position because it saved me a lot of time, a lot of tech overwhelm, and a lot of guesswork by just being able to sign on with her and record, and voila, I had everything ready! It’s like a plug-and-play producing media company that Ginni has over there – Ginni Media.
Michelle Sorro: And after about maybe a year and a half of producing my podcast with her and getting my dream guests and really growing my brand and my business and my mission, that’s when I did approach Ginni late last year of 2019 and said, “Is this completely crazy or could we help others like me who want to start a podcast but have no idea where to begin? And would you be open to doing that together?” And she said, “It is crazy. And I’m all in!” So, the way that I feel about Ginni today is even deeper than from our very first phone call where I knew it was aligned and I felt like there was so much grace involved. I would say about Ginni – and I say this to her directly as well – I’ve also, I think, come across maybe two or three people on the planet that have such a heart of gold, such fierce integrity. Ginni is very heart-centered as well. I can tell you, after hours and hours of amazing phone calls with her that are very friendship-based now, I’ve just never heard her say a negative word or gossip or complain about anything. She’s just this really beautiful soul that I feel privileged to know, much less be in business with. And now that we are so aligned on this mission to change lives and to empower people to be seen and heard to the passion of podcasting, lights me up to no end! So, it’s an honor to be here and to get to talk about the stuff that we’re so passionate about and that we get to do together in the world.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that’s wonderful! Thanks, Michelle. And just as we take a step back, a little reflection for our listeners, this is just how a business comes together. People have different strengths and many times, when they bring those strengths together – these backgrounds – we end up with a whole new something different that they couldn’t have envisioned themselves, and that’s where we’re at. So this is a fun, entrepreneurial idea that, as we figure out ways to work together, we can have something that’s far greater. So, congratulations to both of you for bringing those worlds together!
Michelle Sorro: Thank you, Steve! That’s exactly right. And Ginni and I talk about this all the time about knowing our professional lanes. And we also knew that our friendship came first so we were very clear about our lanes so that we didn’t have to worry about crossing over and maybe jeopardizing this beautiful friendship that we both enjoy. And so, yeah, I love what you said. It’s like, this is how a business comes together, and it can be a lot easier than people imagine, if you know your strengths, you know your X-Factor, you stay in your lane, you have a collaborative, visionary conversation, and you repeat that over and over to make sure that you continue to be aligned. But staying in your strength and in your lane has helped us now publish 53 podcasters in the world during a global pandemic. So, I love what you said in that setup there!
Steve Shallenberger: Well, you may have set a new world’s record with 30 at one time, that’s very impressive! Well, on this first question, maybe we could turn to Ginni – and certainly Michelle, at any time, feel free to chime in. But Ginni, share with our listeners what’s happening in the world of podcasts.
Ginni Saraswati: Well, it’s funny that you mentioned that, Steve. Last night, Michelle and I were on a call – we had our first open house last night – and we were going through some stats that were released about podcasts just last month. And the interesting thing is, Steve, you know, as a Podcast Producer, I keep my eye on how many podcasts are out there on Apple and just the trends, just to keep an idea of how much this platform is booming. And I’m not surprised given that – I think we had this conversation in the last interview I did with you – audio is the only medium that allows the end consumer full autonomy and freedom on how they choose to consume that piece of media. So, when we looked at the stats, I guess, say last year, the stats said that podcasts are usually consumed during a commute or when people are working out. It’s generally consumed while people are doing something else.
Ginni Saraswati: Now, I thought during COVID this is going to be super interesting to see what’s gonna happen because a lot of people aren’t commuting, they’re not going to gyms, they’re not outdoors doing things that they regularly would do in a pre-COVID world. And I thought, “I wonder if podcast stats are going to get impacted?” But what we found last night, Steve, was that, in fact, people are listening to podcasts in their home. So, I think it was something like 49% were listening in their homes and 22% were listening in their cars or while commuting. So, it just goes to show that podcasting now is a medium that is so powerful, that people do have that loyalty to their show. They want to hear the Alec Baldwin show or they want to hear Jay Shetty’s ‘On Purpose’ because they are so connected to that medium. It’s such a powerful medium because it’s built from connection. You can’t have a podcast if you don’t have a connection to your audience – or a successful podcast, should I say, if you don’t have that connection to your audience. So, it’s curious for me, at this time, to know that that stat has just flipped and flipped so quickly in this time of COVID. In April, Apple announced that 1 million podcasts or over 850,000 podcasts are live – and Michelle and I are probably responsible for about half of that during COVID. But it’s just deeply humbling that we can be in such a space that is bringing so much value to people and holding such an important space for people, too.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, great! And I might add that, as I mentioned, I did interview Ginni maybe about a year ago and she is our producer for the Becoming Your Best podcast series. She’s done a great job. Our listenership, just as far as listening to our podcast, I think just passed over 500,000 – I mean, it’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?
Ginni Saraswati: It’s amazing! Half a million listeners have listened to Becoming Your Best and it’s been a joy to watch you, guys, grow in the past two years that I’ve been working with you, Steve – and I’m not surprised, given the amazing content and guests like Michelle and I, that you have on the show.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, Amen!
Michelle Sorro: Wait! I have a question for you, Steve. I’m going to turn the tables if you don’t mind. This is my style. I am curious. I did not know about those download stats. That is deeply impressive! I have a question for you. When you were first considering starting this podcast, were you nervous? Did you have any fears or self-doubt? Were you thinking the market was maybe oversaturated? Why would anyone listen? I mean, did you ever think it would get to this point? Whatever question in there you would like to answer, I would love to know, as I’m getting to know you right now on this show.
Steve Shallenberger: Right! Oh, that’s a great question, Michelle! Well, absolutely, we were apprehensive from lots of points of view. One is, could we just do this? Because we had never done something like this. But, it’s like most things: once you dive in and you just go for it, you start getting some experience and you feel more comfortable. And, on the early podcasts, of course, you pick on your friends, somebody that you think you have confidence in that you can’t blow it with. So, we did that. But once we got going, it became a lot more comfortable. There’s another aspect that’s quite interesting: anytime we do something – whether it’s we teach a seminar or actually learn new things and teach other people within our families or our organizations – we are typically the ones that benefit the most. And that’s exactly how it is in podcasting because you know you have a show coming up, in our case, every single week, and we’re now on what? Episode 246. And, fortunately, Rob is there, and so, we can bounce things off of each other. But you need to be prepared. There’s thousands of people listening and you want it to be worth their time, and something that lifts their lives, that they’re better because of it. And so, you take it – at least, I would assume most people do – really quite seriously. We try to be well prepared and not just turn on the mic and start talking. And so, thanks for that question! And now, here we are. And, in the spirit of good, better, best, and becoming your best, we really want to take it to another level, at this point. How do we do better? How do we reach more people? And that’s probably exactly the type of things that you’re working on.
Michelle Sorro: 100%! And, you know, I always say, “Let’s never compare our beginning to someone else’s middle.” And your middle right now is someone else’s extraordinary, right? But you may be thinking, “Well, I want to get to a million downloads.” Like, for example, I was listening to Lewis Howes on Jay Shetty’s podcast yesterday. They’re both top 50 podcasts on Apple Podcasts. And Lewis just hit his thousandth episode and he’s had over 250 million downloads. But it was so interesting to hear Jay Shetty who’s massive in this podcast space, who’s one of the top 50 – some say he’s the number one but they said he was in the top 50 – but comparing his spot to Lewis’ spot. So, it’s just that beautiful perspective of just really honoring where we are in the moment. And, as you mentioned earlier, if you’re apprehensive, if you’ve got the self-doubt, if you’ve got the insecurities – I had tremendous imposter syndrome when I was considering starting one; even after I had launched it, I was like, “Take it down, take it down!” But you said it so beautifully. You just go all in, go for it. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Get your friends on, you know, your family on, in the beginning – and before you know it, you look back and you’re like, “Wow! 500,000 people have taken time to listen to our show because they, too, want to improve their lives and live the best version of themselves, even during a pandemic.” So, once again, I just salute all that you’re up to here. I have to subscribe to your podcast now! I’m going to be an avid fan. I have no doubt.
Steve Shallenberger: Alright. Well, there you go! That would be an honor! Thank you. Alright. Well, this question is for Michelle. If someone’s interested in hosting a podcast show, how do they get it done?
Michelle Sorro: Well, if it were December of 2019, I would have said, “Well, just call up Ginni or email Ginni because she’s my producer and I’m just a big fan of her. It’s worth the investment to have the entire team over there at Ginni Media do it all for you. All you’ve got to do is order $100 mic, have a laptop and Wi-Fi, and some good content that adds value to your listeners’ lives – and you get to decide that direction.” But that would have been what I said then. Now I would say, “Ah, but it can be isolating, it can be a little lonely trying to go solo when your friends and family might not be in the same space of understanding what it’s like to start a podcast, run a podcast, persevere in the podcast.” And so now, of course, the first thing I say is “Well, come learn about our Podcast Accelerator, which is the only done-for-you program on the planet, where we take you from ‘I’m not sure what my concept of my show would even be’, all the way through to having a published finished podcast by the end of our eight-week course.” And it just so happens, Steve, that we are launching our third and final Podcast Accelerator of 2020 in just a couple of weeks – and I’m sure you’re going to share that in your show resources. But that’s what I would say today.
Michelle Sorro: But there’s another piece, which is the underbelly, which is the real thing that I try and talk to the entire time in the Podcast Accelerator program, and it’s all mindset. Because people may talk about starting a podcast, but they oftentimes come up against the things that I was mentioning earlier – their insecurities, their self-doubt, “What would people think? Oh my gosh, what if it fails? What if I’m no good? What if I’m not nearly as good as Steve Shallenberger, or Oprah Winfrey, or Joe Rogan (or whomever your favorite flavor is as your podcaster)?” If we can just get inside of that fear and not let it run us, rise up and be a little bit brave, take some action, be consistent about it, before you know it, you can look back and – at least it’s been this way for me: The podcast has been the single most effective leverage to not only change my business, but also change my life because of the friendships that I’ve been able to create with the guests that come on my show that I didn’t know but now we just hit it off and connect and we move on as deep friends, or the doors that it’s opened, that’s also led to very meaningful personal new adventures in my life that have all been very exciting and deeply gratifying.
Michelle Sorro: So I would say it’s worth it busting through the fear, because I do believe that that’s underneath why somebody isn’t going to just pull the trigger and start. And when you do it in a program where you’ve got a whole group going through that with you, it’s very powerful, very supportive, very collaborative. And I think it gets you to the finish line, which is why we have a near 100% completion rate, which is unheard of in a digital course – it’s usually a 2 to 5%, just to give perspective for those out there who don’t know. We feel very proud of that, but we really believe it’s because we’re all on a singular focus together. And so, we’re all in it to win it and to get to that finish line, which is us publishing you the day before we finish up the eight-week course.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, should any of our listeners have an interest in getting more information about this or how to participate within, we’ll share that before we sign off today so that we have that. That’s nice and clear. Ginni, just a little question: what are some things that podcasters can do to have as wide a reach as possible for their target listeners?
Ginni Saraswati: Oh, that’s a great question! Actually, Michelle’s very great at this, too, so I’m gonna ask her to chime in after me. But wider reach? I think, when you’re starting a podcast, one of the common questions that I get is, you know, “How am I going to grow my show? How am I going to monetize this?” And I think, when it comes to podcasting, you’ve got to think of, you know, going back to intention and vision – and I know, Steve, you teach this a lot in business principles and everything like that. However, coming back to the whole way of sitting with your intention, like, what do you want to create with this podcast? Who do you want to impact? And if you focus on that one person or that person that you’re talking to about your show or about your vision and how you want to serve them, I think organically, over time you will see that multiply and that expand. And there’s just such a great power in community. You have a guest on your show, and then that guest shares it with their community, and then someone from their community tunes into your show. So, there’s like this real, beautiful Law of Reciprocity going on. And you build a community intentionally or unwillingly, as a result of that. So I think when you’re starting a podcast, if you just focus on one episode at a time, staying consistent, it’s essentially like a weight loss plan or a gym plan, really. You’ve just got to keep doing what you’re doing and you will see results in time, as we’ve seen with your podcast, Steve. Like, you guys have been consistent in the two-three years that I’ve been working with you and you’re nearly at your over half a million downloads, and that doesn’t happen just because you decided to; it’s because you did the work and you put in the time. But there are other ways that we can explore the podcast, but I think I’ll hand that to Michelle because she’s very good at that.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay.
Michelle Sorro: Oh, wow! Well, I appreciate that. You know, Ginni and I talk about this in our Podcast Accelerator program quite a bit because the first two questions – usually the first question that someone asks is, “How can I make money on it?” So I’ll talk about that one first. But the second question is, “How do I grow my audience reach?” The reality is – and I got this from Tim Ferriss, who’s also a top 100 podcaster in the world. I remember when I was doing my Google Search way back in the day before I had met Ginni over at Ginni Media, he had said something that really resonated with me and he said, “If you are starting a podcast to monetize, you’re in the wrong business. Because the reality is that you want to share content to add value to serve your listener.” And also, if you’re trying to figure out how to get a $200 sponsor here, a $500 sponsor there, $1000 sponsor there, that might be important in the beginning for everybody’s budget and financial status. However, you have to think about your listener’s experience. And what happens when you’ve got the little advertisements is that your listener has to go through all those, obviously, to make sense for you. So, if you’ve got two or three or four or five of those in one 40-minute episode, that can be very annoying to a listener.
Michelle Sorro: So what Tim Ferriss said is, “Wait until you’re getting 10,000 or 100,000 downloads per episode, and you can get a much larger sponsor in one swoop. So, it’s only a 30-second commercial, versus four or five or six smaller commercials to make up for the same sum.” And I really took that on and, in the midst of me running my podcast now for two years, I decided to not go with sponsors and because I’m a trainer and a coach and I have various programs that I’m running in addition to the Podcast Accelerator, I just always open up enrollment on my podcast – I mention it as I talk – and I’ve gotten quite a few listeners that are now in my community and learning from me and off into the world-changing lives, just the way they were inspired by me. That’s the first piece.
Michelle Sorro: The second piece is how to grow your audience. Ginni taught me this and I really do believe it’s true. The fastest way to grow it is to get on other people’s podcasts, to be introduced to other communities. I have definitely grown my listenership because of that. The more important piece is to be consistent. You know, you look back and you’re like, “Oh, there were only 100 listens or 50 listens.” It’s like, Wait a second! That was 100 people. Imagine them in your living room right now. It’s not just a number. They’re whole human beings that took the time to listen. So, nurture them and treat them like a raving fan, and really respect and honor them, and do everything for them and they will share it and it will grow organically, and then you look back and you’re like, “Wow, I’ve got over half a million downloads simply because I was consistent and I was committed to my mission of adding value to other people’s lives!” Which is exactly what this show is here.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah! And that’s great! So, how can you make a podcast show relevant?
Ginni Saraswati: Oh, that is a question and a half, Steve Shallenberger! How can you make a podcast show relevant? I think there’s two ways to do this. One is through connection and authenticity – you know, I remember when Michelle came to me and said, “How do I grow my audience?” And another one thing that I said to her is, “When you’re doing solo episodes, it’s just pure fire because you’re speaking from the heart, you’re being authentic.” And funnily enough, when she did start to do that, we saw a bit of a change in her downloads and a change in her show name, too, which perfectly aligned quite nicely.
Ginni Saraswati: The other thing in connection, too, Steve, is that you’re being authentic and you’re talking in a way that someone may not react to what you’re saying, however, they passively consume it, you’re gonna open up so many avenues for yourself to connect with different people. So, connection and authenticity will always remain relevant, I guess, because it’s a human experience you’re talking about. And we go through human experiences every day. So, that’s always going to be timeless content. And the other thing is to make it topical and contextual. You know, current affairs, news, events. If you can talk about those things in a way that’s relatable to you, that resonates with you, and then share that with your audiences, you can keep the content relevant and you can keep it in a way that people learn to trust you. Because, really, podcasting or any kind of media that you put out there as a podcaster or a host or a content creator, it’s about establishing trust with your audience. You want them to trust you enough to come to you for comfort, or just to have that company or just to hear someone talk about leadership principles or something like that. You’ll want the listener to trust you like your customer would trust you if you were running a business. So, that’s what I think you can do to remain relevant.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow, what a great answer! That was spot on! Michelle, anything else you wanted to add to that?
Michelle Sorro: Oh, man, she just nailed it! And I love that whole piece about timeless content is always going to be authenticity and connection. The only other word that I would add to that is vulnerability. The more vulnerable that we are, the more timeless that we will always be. And that, I think, is what really helps to cultivate the trust factor. And not only vulnerable in your solo episodes, but when you are in conversation – well, I will speak for myself, but I’m pretty sure Ginni co-signs because we teach this in our Podcast Accelerator program – treat a conversation like it is a formal interview. Even if you have a business-focused podcast, like this one, we still believe that people want to hear the underbelly. It’s not unlike my 10 years in TV – everybody wanted to see the bloopers and the behind-the-scenes real deal. And that’s what we’re really seeing in 2020; now, more than ever, nobody wants perfection – everybody wants real.
Michelle Sorro: So, in the world of leadership, as an example of this, I was training a US presidential candidate in the late fall of last year – who has, by the way, since dropped out. However, this person wanted to learn how to truly occur authentic and vulnerable and transparent and real on their Facebook live videos. And it made such a difference in terms of their viewerships and the shares in our two months of training together. And it just really proved my theoretical concept. People want vulnerability and I do believe is always going to be relevant. Of course, you want to come on with some idea of a structure, right? The how to’s, the three tips, the ‘try this and you’ll do that’ and we definitely want that. But inside those conversations, keep it as real and vulnerable and authentic and present as possible. Your listeners will hang on every word and share it with their friends. It’s just the way that it goes.
Steve Shallenberger: Alright, great! Well, I am always blown away by how fast the time goes – and that is doubly so today. We’re at the end of our show and this has been great! We could do a whole nother half hour, right? I have the questions and have just been thinking about this – but, any final tips you’d like to leave our listeners with today? And then, before we wrap up, we’ll have you share how people can find out about you. So, final tips, Michelle, and then Ginni. And then, we’ll wrap it up!
Michelle Sorro: I mean, if this is all about living our best lives and becoming your best, then I think it’s time – especially, you know, hopefully, everybody’s had some time to self-reflect during this pandemic – to decide what you really want and to believe in yourself enough to go for it. You know, there’s something to be said for that third dimension of grace or faith, whatever you want to call something larger than yourself, to tap into that, that you are totally a part of it. This works for leadership and business, entrepreneurship, stay-at-home moms – it doesn’t really matter, it’s all the same. But I think that, as we’ve had some time to, in some cases, slow down and really self-reflect and get clear on priorities and what’s most important, what matters the most now – and if it’s something that you want to go for, but you’ve been a little bit scared, a little bit apprehensive, a little bit of like, “Oh gosh! What would people think? What would that look like? What if I fail?” I mean, it is time to carpe diem your dreams. And it really just starts from taking a little bit of bravery steps right outside your comfort zone, staying consistent, and going for it. I mean, every person that we admire, whether it’d be Sara Blakely of Spanx or all the leaders that we buy their products, use their products, learn from – they all started there, and they just went for it, like you were saying earlier. So, that would be my final two cents: Do not delay on your dreams one second longer! The world is waiting for it, even if it’s one person at a time, one listen at a time. When you change that one life, I mean, nothing compares to getting that email, that dm, that private message on Facebook, where you made a difference. I mean, that’s a life that has true meaning for me – and that would be my final two cents of the day.
Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful, wonderful! Ginni!
Ginni Saraswati: Well, I have to co-sign on what Michelle said about taking the time to self-reflect. I think there is such power in pausing and there’s such wisdom in the moments that we do pause. But we’re so programmed to be go-go-go in autopilot and let’s make sure we cross up another thing on our to-do list that we miss that magic. And what I found to be true, especially this year with forced circumstances to literally go indoors and inward, is that when you do pause, when you do allow yourself to feel, you’re able to make decisions that have such a powerful trajectory. And I’m going to use the example Michelle used in this podcast where she launched it on her first day, and she called me saying, “I want to take this down!” And I actually said to her, “Sleep on it!” Had she not have taken that pause, Steve, you, me, and Michelle would firstly not be having this conversation today, she would not have touched the lives that she had, I would still not be her Podcast Producer, and the opportunities that we’ve created for ourselves and the people that we’ve impacted, and the 53 podcasts that we’ve launched into this world, would not have happened. So that all happened because she dared to pause. So, I think with anything, if you want to live your best life, take the time to pause because I think so much wisdom is already within us and we’ve just got to pause to find it.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, fantastic! So, how can people find out about the Podcast Accelerator?
Michelle Sorro: Oh, Steve, that’s a long one! So, I will share it here, and then it’d be great if you wouldn’t mind sharing it in your show resources. It is currently on my website, although, make no mistake, that can also be found on Ginni Media – but for purposes of the answer, it’s michelle-sorro.com/podcast-accelerator.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. Any other connects you want to put on there, while we’re talking about them? We’ll be sure to add them.
Michelle Sorro: Yeah, come say hi! I’m Michelle Sorro everywhere – LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. And Ginni Media! Do you want to give a shout out for that one?
Ginni Saraswati: Thank you, Steve! Well, ginnimedia.com. You can actually also find links to the Podcast Accelerator there, as well. If you want to start your podcast, not sure how but you need a little bit of hand-holding, we will promise you first-class service, premium quality podcast production, and you’ll be a published podcaster by the end of it. So, ginnimedia.com is where you can go, as well.
Michelle Sorro: I can add one more thing if you don’t mind, Steve. You know, we only hold two open houses to come and learn about the Podcast Accelerator. So, if you’ve got anyone listening, I’m speaking to you right now – if you’re considering starting a podcast, just come and learn about it. We are holding our final Open House of 2020 on September 9th, at 5 pm Pacific, and you can sign up for that anywhere that we just listed. And we’d love to have you there! You can let us know that Steve sent you – and that will just be one big beautiful podcasting community!
Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful! Well, thank you, Ginni and Michelle! It’s been a delight to be here. It’s been a fun podcast. And you are making a difference, so congratulations to both of you!
Michelle Sorro: Likewise, my friend!
Ginni Saraswati: Thank you, Steve! Appreciate that!
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, we certainly wish you the best as you’re making a difference. And to all of our listeners, it’s such a delight to be together! It’s an honor, it’s a privilege. And I know you’re making a difference every single day in your life – and we wish you the best as you have a great day! This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership!
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SPACE IS LIMITED AND THIS PROGRAM ALWAYS SELLS OUT.
Steve Shallenberger: A big welcome to our guests – you, the listeners – wherever you may be in the world today, to the Becoming Your Best podcast show! And today, this podcast is inspired by a talk given by Joseph B. Wirthlin, who is an American businessman and a renowned religious leader. He lived to be 91 years old. A little side note to this: Joseph is also the grandfather of one of our dear friends, Dan McConkie – who we were fortunate enough to work together with, where we lived for three years, in Madrid, Spain, doing humanitarian service some years ago. This is a great experience! It’s so amazing! Dan is now a law professor at a top University in the mid-west.
Now, Joseph Wirthlin’s talk is a classic – and in it, he shared the following idea. By the way, the title of this is, ‘Come What May and Love It!’ I think you’re going to see in a moment, this is not just a saying; this is a way of thinking about life. And so, let’s just introduce this. Joseph shared that when he was young, he loved playing sports and he had fond memories of those days – he actually played University football. But not all of those were pleasant. He shared that he remembered one day after his football team had lost a tough game, he came home feeling discouraged, his mother was there, she listened to his sad story – she taught her children to trust in themselves and each other and not to blame others for their misfortunes and to give it their best effort in everything they attempted. So, when they fell down, she expected them to pick themselves up and get going again.
So, the advice that Joseph’s mother gave to him at that time, wasn’t altogether unexpected, and he related it stayed with him all of his life. Here’s what she said: “Joseph, come what may and love it!” He mentioned he had often reflected on that counsel. She may have meant that every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don’t sing and the bells don’t ring. Yet, despite discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result. And there may be some who think that their leaders or others rarely experience pain, suffering, and distress – or other people that they admire – if only that were true! Well, almost every person, man or woman, has experienced an abundant measure of joy. Each, also, has drunk deeply from the cup of disappointment, sorrow, and loss. None are really shielded from grief or sadness. This is part of life and part of humanity. Well, how little do we all know what awaits us as we go throughout life! But whenever we have things that lead through seasons of sadness and sorrow, that advice by Joseph Wirthlin’s mother is wonderful!
Come what may and love it! It’s an attitude about life. How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? Well, we can’t – I mean, if things are tough, they’re tough – at least not in that moment. And I don’t think Joseph’s mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. And I don’t think she was suggesting we have pretended happiness. But the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. If we approach adversity wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead towards times of greatest happiness.
So, the following are a few things that you can do to weather the storms, keep your feet under you, gain experience, and have greater happiness and success as you encounter the bumps and challenges and disappointments along the way of life. Alright, well, here are a few things that you could do.
The first one is that we can learn to laugh. Have you ever seen – and I love this quote by Joseph, “Have you ever seen an angry driver, who when someone else makes a mistake, reacts as though that person has insulted his honor, his family, his dog, and his ancestors, all the way back to Adam? Or have you had an encounter with an overhanging cupboard door that was left open at the wrong place and the wrong time, which has been cursed, condemned, and avenged by a sore-headed victim? Well, there is an antidote for these kinds of times.” I was just yesterday at The Memory Care Center where my wife happens to be a resident. The people that are the helpers, the caretakers, if you will, in this Care Center – which is magnificent – do a great job. And I just love them! One of them was a little frustrated yesterday. She had had a heck of a day and things were not going well. I kind of thought of this – Rachel, and all of the rest are so great – the antidote for times such as this is to just learn to laugh about it. It’s not always easy, but it helps when you keep things in perspective.
A couple of examples of this would be that some years ago – about 20 years ago – our family was in the Czech Republic. We had about 14 or 15 members of our family, and we were walking along the street in Prague, just enjoying the magnificent historic sites when, as I was looking around, on the sidewalk, following the family, I ran straight into a steel post on the sidewalk. I went straight down! I mean to tell you, it hurt! But when I saw our family laughing so hard tears were streaming down their face, how could I ever get upset? Well, not only did they warn me for the rest of the trip, “Hey, Dad! There’s a post on the sidewalk. Look out!” Ever since that time, the family joke is exactly that. All these years later, “Watch out, Dad! There’s a post!” We still laugh about this. It has been great!
And another time, I was traveling with one of my mentors and a board member for one of our companies, Gardner Russell, on the way to a company annual retreat in Laughlin, Nevada. We landed at the Las Vegas airport, Gardner flew in from Florida, and we rented our car and headed out. And Laughlin is about an hour and a half drive from Las Vegas. I might add that Laughlin is spelled Laugh-lin. That’s how it’s spelled, and there’s a reason! After 30 minutes of driving along, Gardner asked if he could drive. Well, he was about 75 years old at the time, and no problem, he was very capable. I pulled over and said, “Well, yeah, of course!” Well, after we had had a great time visiting and we had been driving for about two hours, and things were becoming more and more remote, then we saw a sign that said, “Welcome to San Bernardino County, California.” We were in the middle of the desert! I got out and flagged down the only car in sight coming from the other direction. I asked if they knew where Laughlin, Nevada was, and as the other person laughed, she asked if we had a lot of gas. Well, it became apparent we were still about an hour and a half from Laughlin. We have laughed about that forever! I said, “Nice driving, Gardner!” Gardner’s comment was, “Oh, well, it’s good for them to start a meeting without us from time to time!” It was a wonderful visit. Gardner later sent to me a pillow – that particular trip was full of adventures – and here’s what the pillow said on it: “We’ve been through a lot together, and most of it is your fault!” Well, we ultimately made it. We had a great time, a great experience. This is how we just laugh at it.
Now, Joseph Wirthlin shared this priceless story that happened to their family. He said, “I remember when one of our daughters went on a blind date. She was all dressed up, waiting for her date to arrive when the doorbell rang. In walked a man who seemed a little old, but she tried to be polite. She introduced him to me and my wife and the other children and then, she put on her coat and went out the door. We watched as she got into the car, but the car didn’t move. Eventually, our daughter got out of the car, red-faced, and ran back into the house. The man that she thought was her date – her blind date – had actually come to pick up another of our daughters who had agreed to be a babysitter for him and his wife. Well, we all had a good laugh over that. In fact, we couldn’t stop laughing. And later, when our daughter’s real blind date showed up, I couldn’t come out to meet him because I was still in the kitchen laughing. Now, I realize our daughter could have felt humiliated and embarrassed, but she laughed with us, and as a result, we still laugh about it today.”
So, the next time you are tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable. Here’s the second of three things that you can do to come what may and love it. Just remember the value of the refiners’ fire. I love the language in Cecil B. Demille’s movie, “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston as Moses. As Rameses commands Moses to the desert once it’s discovered that he is the son of Hebrew slaves, he gives him a King’s Scepter – which is the staff, right? – and the scorpions and cobras and lizards as his subjects. “The man who walked with Kings, now walks alone as he’s walking across the desert!” goes the narrative. I love this! And this narrative is so compelling! “The hot winds and raging sands, moving forward, always forward, stripped of all earthly possessions. Each night brings the embrace of loneliness, all about is desolation. He is driven through the fiery furnace, until at last, when he is cleansed and purged for GOD’s purpose, the metal is ready for the maker’s hand.” Isn’t that awesome? This is an example of the refiners’ fire.
So, I think this is the second point. Just remember the value of the refiners’ fire of going through trials and becoming better because of it. You know, the refiners’ fire is a process of heating metal up to a high temperature, like 2000 degrees, which burns out the impurities or the dross, leaving the purest of gold or silver. 99% pure. And this is actually what happens to us as things heat up in our lives, as the dross is burned out – and it’s an opportunity to build character and strength; we become different as a result of these experiences. But when we see these difficult experiences for what they are – which is an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to be better, to be tested and respond, that’s the result of the refiners’ fire – there’s one other aspect to this and that is, what takes place in the process of tempering steel. Basically, what you take is an iron bar, which is brittle and can be broken with a hammer. However, when you heat it up to white hot, it changes the molecules within that bar and turns it as it cools down, usually in the air, and it becomes tempered steel. This process has the effect of toughening it by lessening brittleness and reducing the internal stress. It can take bending and is far more durable. And so, as we go through these processes of becoming tempered steel, of going through the refiners’ fire, the understanding that come what may and loving it, is an attitude of growing in life, of saying, “I’m going forward, I’m going to deal with this, I’m going to figure out how to embrace it and make the best of it.”
About 20 years ago, I read the obituary of a woman who fought a battle with cancer and finally succumbed to this disease. The Obit started with this comment, a reflection of her attitude: “I can do hard things.” Oh my goodness, I have never forgotten that obituary! It went on to talk about her attitude on facing her challenge lifted everyone around her. Her love, her compassion, her grit, her laughter, and spirit lifted her way above this challenge in life. Imagine the impact that this has had on everyone around her, including me who did not know her. So, we learn through adversity and challenges. We don’t ask for these hardships, but they are part of life. And these are the experiences that mold and form who we become. We can learn from adversity and setbacks. These kinds of experiences can allow us to learn, grow, and get better, which in turn, increases our chances for success.
Now, this can be illustrated by a couple that appeared in the divorce court. And the man explained to the judge his wife has been throwing things at him for 20 years. And the judge asked him why had he decided to file for divorce, now. He replied that her aim was getting so much better. This is the whole thought, right here, is that as we go through life, and we have these hot challenges and burdens, just like we’re in now – I mean, just think, like, right now, we’ve got a worldwide pandemic that has been so devastating. But also, at this very moment, we have the worst fires in the history of California going on. We have hurricanes taking place in the South-East of the United States, just getting ready to hit the shore. Well, things are gonna come, aren’t they? And so, we have to stand up and figure out how to do better. And that’s the whole idea of this.
Dale Carnegie said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding.” So, when you are focused on this attitude of “Come What May and Love It”, you are committed to actively doing the opposite of what Dale Carnegie warned us against.
Last of all, as we think about what we can do, as we encounter going through these challenges in life, and making life happy, making life joyful, is that we can exercise faith and hope. So, number one is, learn to laugh. Number two is, realize that the refiners’ fire is a process that can be helpful to us. And number three is exercise faith and hope. The definition of faith from the dictionary is ‘a strong belief, a confidence, or a trust in someone or something. It’s a belief in the existence of God or belief that is not based on proof.’ And so, in other words, he had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact. And the fruits of having faith are strength, hope, and peace. Whatever your beliefs, isn’t it wonderful to know that there is the hope of an after a while and everything will be okay?
My friend, Norman Vincent Peale, a great pastor from a church in New York – he wrote a book called ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ – said this: “Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or are, raise your sights and see the possibilities. Always see them! For they’re always there.” There are many things that strengthen faith: simply believing the reflection of the blessings that you have in life, your experiences in the past, nature, outdoors, the stars and the heavens, meditation, prayer, scriptures – examples of life can all strengthen your faith.
One of the verses from the Bible, the Old Testament that has comforted me and allowed me to have faith and hope is Proverbs 3:5-6. This was also one of the very favorite verses for my great-grandpa, Charles Baker. He actually memorized it and this gives me a real connection with him. He trusted in the Lord. Here’s the quote, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not unto thine own understanding, acknowledge Him in all thy ways and – here’s the promise – He will direct thy paths.” So, that is great because it requires some humility, it requires reaching out and gaining strength from above and accomplishing things maybe we didn’t think it was possible.
In our most difficult times, we can find peace that things will work out. You can say to yourself, “It’s okay. I’m gonna make it through this! This too will pass!” And then, look for the good. You can say what we’ve talked about before it’s another way of this mindset of “Come What May and Love It!” You can say, “What a blessing!” and then think of a reason it is so and will enjoy the benefits of that setback.
Well, when I was in my early 20s, as we kind of wrap up today, and getting to the end of our session, I heard a man share the following poem. It’s entitled “Just keep on”. I’ve never forgotten it and I’ve committed it to memory. It goes like this:
“Keep on a-‘livin and a-‘keep on a-‘givin,
And a-’keep on a-’trying to smile.
Just a-‘keep on a-‘singin, and a-‘trustin, and a-‘clingin,
To the Promise of an after while.
For the sun comes up and the sun goes down,
And the morning follows night.
There’s a place to rest, like a mother’s breast
And a time when things come right!
Just a-‘keep on a-‘believin and a-‘hidin all your grievin,
Just a-‘keep on a-‘tryin to cheer.
Just a-‘keep on a-‘prayin, and a-‘lovin, and a-‘sayin,
The things we love to hear.
For the tide comes in and the tide goes out,
And the dark will all turn bright!
There’s a rest from the load and an end to the road,
And a time when things come right!
Everything will work out.”
Now, as we reflect on the wonderful counsel offered by Joseph Wirthlin’s mother close to 100 years ago, come what may and love it! This is grand advice on how to handle the setback, the good times, the tough times, to take responsibility and move forward to make the best of life that could ever be possible. Indeed, this is the entire spirit of becoming your best! It’s not becoming your best if everything is just going okay, if it’s going your way, right? It’s becoming your best as you journey through life, it’s this refiners’ fire, it’s the rock-polishing process that will bring you the greatest joy, satisfaction, happiness, and success in life.
I love this quote by Marcus Aurelius, almost 2000 years ago, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy, and to love. So, the next time something goes wrong, say to yourself, “Come what may and love it!” It’s been a privilege to be together with you today. We are wishing you the best in all that you do, and bidding you a happy, productive, safe day. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. And we extend to you a great welcome! We have a really fun guest with us today. She’s an award-winning Resilience and Leadership speaker, 11-times published author, and certified life coach. She’s the founder and CEO of S.O. What! and the S.O What! Foundation. And in addition to being an author and a speaker, life coach, excuse eliminator, and entrepreneur, she is an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis where she teaches marketing and the life skills course she created. So, welcome, Summer Owens!
Summer Owens: Hi! Thank you so much for having me!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, yes! We’re excited to have you! Before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Summer. She’s known for upbeat, no excuses personality, and Summer Owens is the young adult activator – literally wrote the book on eliminating excuses and overcoming objections and obstacles. So, Summer became a mother at 15 as a result of a forced sexual encounter, but she didn’t let that stop her from achieving her dreams! She graduated from high school, college, and business school with honors and was named “Most Likely To Succeed” and “Miss University” with her son by her side through it all. So, her greatest challenge and accomplishment has been raising her son as a single mother – and their story has been featured not only locally, but internationally, as well, on CNN Headline News, the 700 Club – and, as we had the chance to visit about this, she now has two grandchildren. And so, Summer you’re on a roll!
Summer Owens: It’s been a whirlwind, a nice little journey.
Steve Shallenberger: Absolutely. Well, Summer, to get going on the show today, tell us a little more about your background, including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you, what you’re doing – and just help us get a little feel for your story.
Summer Owens: Sure, absolutely! So, a lot of it you mentioned in the introduction, but I’ll give a little bit more detail behind it. So, when I was 15, that was a very critical point in my life – and I guess in all of our lives, but for me, I was just a pretty normal teenage girl and I ended up getting pregnant by a friend of a family member after a forced sexual encounter. And that changed everything about my life, as you can imagine. So, I got pregnant. I felt sorry for myself, I was really down and discouraged and even attempted suicide at that time because it was a very hard point in my life. But then, after I got over myself and I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized I could still have the life that I thought I would have before I became a teen mom in this way. And so, I really pushed myself and I graduated from high school. As you mentioned, I graduated the top of my class and I was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” and I got a scholarship for college. I went off to college with my son. I went to college on the Emerging Leader scholarship. And so, I was still a leader in college even with my son by my side.
Summer Owens: I graduated from college and I started my career with the Memphis Grizzlies. That was back in 2001, when they moved from Vancouver, Canada, to Memphis. And so, it was a very exciting time to be with the team. But I was a young mom, single mom at the time, so it was also very challenging, but I continued to push myself and I got a master’s degree at that time, I got my MBA. Then, I went on to work for ServiceMaster. And from there, I went to work at FedEx. But while I was at FedEx, I did something that people have been asking me to do for a long time, and that was to write a book about my story because the one question I would get asked all the time, especially when I was in college, and people would see me involved in activities in organizations, and also see me with my son by my side, they would ask me how did I do it. And my answer was always, “I don’t have time to think about it. All I have time to do is do it.” But when I was at FedEx, I wrote this book, my memoir, my first book that really changed my life – and I’m grateful to say it changed a lot of other people’s lives, too.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s wonderful, Summer! And let’s just go back and think about some of the things that you did that helped you get on track. What would you attribute that to?
Summer Owens: Well, some of the things that I think really kept me on track was I was really focused on my goals. I was really focused on my goals. I knew that I wanted to have nice things in life. I knew I wanted to have a nice home. I knew I wanted to have a nice car. You know, those kinds of things that a lot of young people think about when they grow up. I also knew that, statistically, teen parents – young women who became parents as teenagers – didn’t have those things and struggled a lot and maybe relied on public assistance or support from their family. And I knew I didn’t want those things for my life. I knew I wanted to be able to take care of myself, I knew I wanted to be able to take care of my son. And so, I really began to study people who had what I thought I wanted in life, meaning who were successful, who had nice homes, who had cars, who traveled – that was also something that was important for me. And what I saw was, most of them had an education, they had gone to college. They started their careers by going to college, and so I knew I needed to do whatever it took to make sure I follow their path so that I could take care of myself and my son!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, absolutely! And Summer and I were talking about Becoming Your Best – The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders just before the show started today – and she’s just getting into the book. Good luck! I hope you enjoy it. One of the things I was thinking is two of the very, very powerful principles that are a predictor of success. One is to captivate a vision about your life and lead your life with the vision. The second is to manage with a plan – that’s having goals. And, as you think back, Summer, those are such inspiring ideas to have. And once those ideas enter into your life, it changes everything. I’m just curious because you’re in the business of changing lives right now; you speak in colleges and universities to young people. And that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re planting these seeds. As you look back, do you recall where these ideas came? How did they get into your mind? And once they get in your mind, look out everybody because everything’s gonna give way!
Summer Owens: Yeah, you’re exactly right! And it’s interesting. So, you mentioned I’m a speaker now. The last thing I said was I was working at FedEx and I wrote the book. And the book just took off. I shared my story, really, to encourage some teen moms, to show them they could graduate from high school, they could go to college. But then, so many other people started reading the book and saying, “Hey, Summer. This is just a book for anybody who has any excuse to not be successful. You take away all those excuses.” And so, I started speaking just to share my story and to sell the book, to be quite honest. I was like, “Well, I want to get this book out there so I need to start speaking.” And people were starting to ask me to speak. But then I fell in love with it because every time I would speak, I would have a line of people waiting to talk to me and ask my opinion or share their stories. And I felt like I found my calling, my purpose, my passion, what I was supposed to be doing with my life.
Summer Owens: And so, it’s interesting because you mentioned the vision that I had for my life was, “I want to be successful. I want to be able to provide for myself and for my son.” And it’s like you just said, once you have that vision, just look out because things will kind of manifest themselves. I never saw myself as a speaker. That wasn’t part of my vision. My vision was just to be successful and be able to take care of my son. And so, these things just happened. And then, managing with a plan. My plan was to get my education – and all these things that I did to get my education and the path that I took all lined up with where I am today as a speaker, as well, because I am speaking in educational institutions all the time. But something else that I thought was really interesting – because I did just get the book yesterday, but I’ve been digging into it and I’m already in love with it because it really hits on who I am, what I think of me, and a lot of what I speak about, as well. Because the other reason why I feel like I’ve been able to be successful, and one of the things that I share with young people is your chapter four, which is prioritizing your time. That has been critical to me being able to accomplish the things that I’ve been able to accomplish, even as a young single mother – understanding what’s really important and where I should focus my time, and what are the things that really don’t matter and don’t deserve my time.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great! Well, Summer, from the very first moment that I saw information about you I was excited to have you on this show!
Summer Owens: I love it!
Steve Shallenberger: Well, you know, it’s that spirit that makes such a difference. And you had some cards stacked against you and you’ve come back and pushed forward towards your dream, and that’s just really wonderful! What’s it like being a woman minority in corporate America?
Summer Owens: You know, it’s so interesting because when I entered corporate America at 21 – I think I was 21, maybe 22 years old – at the time I worked for the Memphis Grizzlies, which is an NBA basketball team, like I said, when they first came to town. It was interesting because I was very grateful. I’ll say that I was very grateful because I was a minority being a woman and I was also a minority being African American. But I had a very good team, a very good staff of people who were very supportive, very inclusive, and helping me to grow and to develop, and not feel like a minority – not to be treated like a minority. But I also made it my mission at the time, though, to educate more minorities, more women about sports, about corporate America, so that they could do the things that they need to do and pursue the education, internship, opportunities so that I would not always be such a minority.
Summer Owens: But that continued through my career. I went to work for ServiceMaster and then I worked for FedEx and I continued to be a minority. As you already know, in corporate America, that’s still the case today. I started my career almost 20 years ago and a lot of things are still the same in terms of being a minority. So, it is a bit challenging and I felt like I had to work a whole lot harder to prove myself and to be taken seriously. But I will also say that I’m very grateful that I don’t have some of the horror stories that other women have had, other minorities have had working in corporate America. I’ve been really, really blessed to have great supportive teams and great supportive managers who have helped me to grow and develop and also foster an environment for other minorities to enter into that workplace.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great! Way to blaze the trail and inspire others. And from my point of view, it’s actually an advantage because when you stand out, you’re not just one of the crowd, right? And you have a great story to tell – and so, I think that’s really quite inspiring. And you don’t have to look right or left, you just are able to stand with anyone else. I love that. So keep that up!
Summer Owens: Yeah. Thank you. I think that’s an excellent point. I felt a lot of that as well, that I was able to stand out – and I made sure I stood out in a positive way.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, yeah! And that’s what I like so much. It’s an inspiring attribute. And if we can get everybody to do that and just put race aside and say, “Listen, I’m important and you’re important. Let’s all work on being our best and making the best of life.” How wonderful is that, right?
Summer Owens: You’re exactly right! You’re exactly right.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, good. Now, what is it like to tell such a personal story like you’ve been talking about?
Summer Owens: I will tell you, it’s definitely not easy. When I published my book I described it as “I walked out onto a stage, an audience of thousands before me, and I was naked.” That’s how it feels.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. Wow!
Summer Owens: That’s exactly how it felt.
Steve Shallenberger: Quite vulnerable, yeah.
Summer Owens: As if I was standing completely exposed. Completely exposed. And I didn’t even know, I didn’t realize it would feel like that when I decided to share my story. It was just on my heart to show some people – like I said, my first focus was teen moms – just to show them, “This is my life. I made it! You can too! And this is exactly how I did it!” But it was after I wrote the book that I really felt like, “Oh, it’s out there now. What do people think?” So, I’m standing on a stage – this is how I felt – I’m standing on the stage, naked. And luckily, this didn’t take very long. Somebody said that the book was good. Somebody said that they learned something from it – and they started to give me very specific examples of what they liked about it or what they got from it or how it encouraged them, how it inspired them, that I’m like, “I’m okay standing on the stage in this way because it’s helping somebody.” So, it was very scary at first, I felt exposed – it was very scary. But after, the more and more I started to get confirmation that I was doing the right thing by sharing my story, I wanted to share more. Then, I felt more and more comfortable with it. And so, here I am today, and we’re talking and I’ve written a book and I’ve written other books and created a curriculum around it where I’m like, “Let’s go deeper. I’ll share even more. I want you – young people, adult, whoever reads it, whoever follows my programs – to be as deep as you can into my story to get whatever pieces of it that can encourage and inspire you. So, like I said, it was hard but it’s been 10 years now, and I don’t regret for a second doing it!
Steve Shallenberger: Well, yeah, I’m so glad that you have, as well! One of my mentors shared that “That which is most personal, is frequently most general.” In other words, sometimes we think these deep, dark, very personal secrets and struggles and challenges are something only we have. But, as you begin to share it, people just relate to it, they know somebody. It’s a human side of us, of having to go through challenges like this. And when you’re so open like you are, it helps people relate. It gives encouragement to them with their challenges. And so, nice going on being vulnerable and open because it actually works to the opposite. It becomes a strength.
Summer Owens: I appreciate that! I definitely have felt that! It has drawn me closer and closer to people. And like we’ve mentioned before, it helps people to see, “I’m not alone! Somebody else has gone through that, somebody else had experienced that and somebody else had gotten through that.” And I’m happy to be a person that they can look to, to say that that’s the case for them.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. Okay. And I’ve been excited to talk about S.O. What!
Summer Owens: I love how you say it!
Steve Shallenberger: Tell us about S.O. What! What is that? Give us the background on it, describe it. Help us understand it.
Summer Owens: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, first of all, kudos to you because you said it exactly right. That’s exactly the attitude that I want people to have, is to learn how to say “So What!“. So, like I mentioned when I wrote the book, I wrote it for teen moms because I wanted them to see that they could graduate from high school, they could go on to college, they could still be successful. But so many other people started reading the book – my first book, my memoir – and saying, “Summer, this isn’t just for teen moms. This is for anybody with any excuse for not being their best, any excuse for not being successful.” And I’m a woman of faith and I remember going to bed one night and I said, “What is this? What is this?” If it’s not just for teen moms, it’s for anyone – and my heart had told me that I can help people to be successful. And I woke up the next morning and I felt like God told me, “Summer, your business is called, S.O What! The thing about you is, you already say to people, when they tell you they can’t do this, they can’t have that, and all these things that are wrong in their life. And I was already saying, “So what! So what? So what that’s your problem? So what you don’t know your father? So what you don’t have name-brand clothing – because that’s a big deal for young people in a lot of cases. Or, so what you don’t live in a big house? So what? What are you going to do about it? What are you gonna do about it?”
Summer Owens: So, the next step is, “So now what?” First of all, when challenges come into your life, the first thing you need to say is “So what!” Stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop looking for excuses, and just say, “So what! It is what it is. That’s the case. So now what?” And start creating a plan to move forward from it. This is a powerful statement that I want to encourage everybody to say, no matter what challenges they face – and I think right now, with us living during this pandemic, an experience none of us have had before, we all are experiencing a lot of loss, a lot of pain, a lot of frustration. But I want people to say, “So what!” We’re all going through this. So, stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop beating yourself up, stop beating up other people and say, “So what! How are we going to move forward from this?”
Summer Owens: And I will say, too, one of the people that I look up to and really admire is Oprah Winfrey, because of her resilience story and her background and where she came from, and how she has really encouraged and inspired millions and millions of people and building her empire. And so, that’s why I took a page out of her book, when she had Harpo studios, which was Oprah spelled backwards – and I wanted my name incorporated into the name of my business because it is so personal. It’s all based on me and my life, my story, and how I use that to help and encourage other people. And that’s where the S.O. comes from. So, it’s my initials and it’s also that powerful statement saying, “Hey, you’ve got to keep moving. Life happens. Keep going. So what!”
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s great! Yeah, I’m glad you brought up Oprah. She is a flat-out inspiration, isn’t she?
Summer Owens: She really is!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, I’m glad she is such the person she is. Alright. Well, now let’s give a few tips to our listeners before we kind of go into the wrap up of our session today. Time always flies so quickly. So, once you say “So what!” – and, by the way, we, in our seminars, we add one other thing. I love it! “So what?” And then we say, “What a blessing!” And then think of why it is a blessing because that’s what you’re saying, essentially. Alright, so what! You can’t change it, let’s get with it. And now, how do we go forward? So, what are your recommendations, Summer? So what! What do we do next? What are some things that you recommend?
Summer Owens: Sure! So, I would like to offer three. First, I’d say, look for the lesson. And whatever your challenge is, whatever you’re going through, there is something to learn. There’s something to learn. So, look for the lesson and ask yourself, “In this problem, in this challenge, in this circumstance, what am I supposed to be learning from this? And how can I apply this to my future? My future problems, my future opportunities.” Look for the lesson.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, great. Okay.
Summer Owens: And there are two others I’ll offer – I’d like to offer three. So, number one is, look for the lesson, because in dealing with obstacles and dealing with challenges, which is really what I focus on, in helping people to be more resilient, is looking for the lesson. But the second one – and I love it because, like I said, when I picked up your book and started reading it, we will be fast friends; we will be fast friends because the second and the third are actually things that you talk about in your book. But the second is, be accountable. Be accountable. Recognize your role in the situation. Recognize your role in a situation. Did you create the problem? Because in some situations that we find ourselves in and some challenges we find ourselves in, we may have created that challenge. So, be accountable for what you did, and how you may have contributed to that. And in some cases, maybe you did not. Either way, you’re accountable for your life, you are accountable for the decisions that you make to move forward from those challenges. So, be accountable.
Summer Owens: And then, the third is one I said that you have as well, and it’s a big one for me, too, is never give up. Never give up! Life can be really, really hard sometimes, and life can be really unfair, sometimes. But if you have a goal and you have a mission, you have a passion, then go for it! And I think the harder the goal, the bigger the goal, the harder it’s going to be to get it but the more rewarding it will be once you do. Because for me, like I said, when I was 15 I had a baby by somebody I didn’t even know. But I said, “No, I want to be successful. I want to be able to provide for myself and for my son. I want to have anything I want in life – and not just materialistically.” So, there were times – many times – as a high school student, as a college student, as a working professional, as a single mom, working on my master’s degree, that I wanted to give up. Why? Because it’s hard. It was hard. Every step of the journey was hard. And I wanted to give up many, many times. But I stayed focused on my goal. And here I am today. Now, I’ve had my master’s degree for 15 years, and I kind of look back on all those times, and I can still say, “Yeah, it was hard. It was difficult. But look where I am now because I didn’t give up.” And so, that would be my third one: if you have a goal, and it’s something that you really want in life, don’t let anything deter you and don’t ever give up.
Steve Shallenberger: Alright, Summer, you are a powerhouse!
Summer Owens: Thank you. Thank you.
Steve Shallenberger: Way to be! Well, let’s see, we’re at the end of our interview today. Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Summer Owens: Those three tips that I just gave, I think, would take people a very, very long way. But probably, the last thing I would just say is, remember, when the challenges come in your life – and I don’t care if they’re small, or if they’re large – try to practice saying, “So what!” Let that be the first thing that comes out of your mouth. When you drop your cell phone and you break the screen, you get mad, right? Well, let the first thing that comes out of your mouth be, “So what! It’s just a phone. It’s just a phone, I can get it fixed. I can get it replaced.” Or something much more major. In the reality of what we’re dealing with right now, maybe you lost your job. Maybe you’ve been furloughed from your job. Or maybe, if there’s students listening to this – I think you have listeners of all types – maybe you didn’t get to graduate, maybe you didn’t get to walk across the stage. And it hurts, it is devastating. It’s probably something you’ve been looking forward to all of your life. Even in that situation – lost your job, didn’t get to walk across the stage – So what! So what! And then go back to those things that I just said before. Okay, what’s the lesson in this? What can I grain positive from this situation? How can I turn this thing into a positive thing? And so, yeah, that’s what I would leave people with, is practice saying, “So what!” And understand that “So what!” doesn’t mean you don’t care. What “So what!” means is you care more about getting past the situation, rather than focusing on the problem.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, great! And the sooner you say that and get with it, the better off you’re going to be.
Summer Owens: Exactly, exactly! You said it! In one of my presentations is exactly what I say. Your ability to be successful in spite of challenges is directly related to how fast you’re able to say “so what!”
Steve Shallenberger: Indeed! Alright, well, Summer, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Summer Owens: The best way to reach me is on my website – and that’s summerowens.com – it’s my name, summerowens.com. I am all over social media but the best way to get to those is just to go to my website and you’ll find links to all my social media there. I love talking to people, I love connecting with people, and I love helping people. So, I would love for you to go to my website, check me out, check what I’m doing, send me a message, ask me a question – let’s engage and let me support you any way I possibly can.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, good, Summer. It’s been a delight having you on the show today. Love your spirit! And your parents named you the right name!
Summer Owens: Thank you! I appreciate it! I really appreciate and I’ve truly enjoyed being on the show.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, same here of having you here! And to all of our listeners, never forget, you too are making a difference every single day and you’re a light, you’re an influence, you’re a radiance and it affects everybody around you. This is Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to this Becoming Your Best Podcast Series, wherever you may be in the world today! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger – and today, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Knowing that I needed to come up with a meaningful podcast, especially in alignment with the subject of Becoming Your Best, you put me to the test! So, what would be worthy of your time, significant, and something that would be useful to you in your journey of becoming your best? Well, the result is a subject that has enriched and changed my life. I see life differently, including becoming my best and seeking to make a difference for good. This experience has provided a new perspective on life.
So, here’s the story. Three weeks ago, at 5 AM, I woke up thinking about a podcast subject. And, for whatever reason, I started thinking about the individual histories of an individual. I did a quick mental inventory of my own family ancestors who had a personal history. So, my grandpa, John Robert Quarles, born in 1896 – yes, he had a life sketch; my mom, Margie June Quarles Shallenberger – Yes, checked the box; my great, great, great grandpa, Charles Stackhouse, who was part of the California Gold Rush in 1850, he captured the whole story – checked that one off. And my grandma, Viola Pearl Baker Shallenberger – well, she had one, so fun and inspiring! But that was about it! And I realized there’s no story for my dad, his dad, or any of the Shallenberger ancestors. And I was not aware of anything from my grandma Ethel Quarles or anyone else beyond that. I have been working on mine with our daughter, Anne. She’s been so helpful! And it’s coming along! But there is nothing, at this point, for my good wife, who, because of her illness, will never be able to complete hers. But I can, and we can!
And so, as soon as I got up in the hour that was a decent hour, I called my cousin Trudy and shared my early morning thoughts, and asked if there’s anything for our grandma Ethel Margaret Quarles. And she said she did have a few things and would send them along. And so, within just a short time, I received three to four pages of precious stories about my grandma’s life. And I followed up adding several stories I had regarding my sweet Grandma, along with stories from other cousins – and I put those all into one document. And this whole process took less than an hour. And then I sent this out to my uncles and aunts and cousins from the Quarles family. And literally, within a week, I had many stories that we were able to add to this life sketch from the family. And I’m happy to say, because of this collaboration, we have had an amazing life sketch of my grandma Quarles. I can tell you what was shared has already deeply impacted my life and tells me much about the character and nature of our wonderful and soft-spoken, courageous grandmother. This life sketch is now posted in an app called ‘Family Search’ for all her posterity, for generations to come to have and hold dear.
So, the invitation today to you – and continues to be to me – is to complete your personal history, your life sketch, and stories for your posterity and humanity. And number two is to help your loved ones – whether deceased or living – to complete a personal history or life sketch or share their stories.
Two years back, cousin Trudy Quarles Cunningham DeVries introduced our family to Family Search, which is one of the most comprehensive family history services – which is also an app – on the planet. And the good news is it’s a free app. And there’s some really great apps out there, but this is one that’s quite spectacular! And you can easily connect your family far back, in many cases, hundreds, if not 1000 years. Under the name of each of your relatives that pop up – so, you can show it as a family tree, or as a fan, a circle, everybody going out, it shows it in different presentations – but under the name of each of your relatives there is an icon called ‘Memories’, where you can save these kinds of stories and life histories for all your posterity. And it’s provided at no cost by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is going to be around for as long as mankind, I expect. In other words, a long time!
And this is where I posted Ethel Margaret Quarles’ life sketch. And since that time that Trudy introduced us to Family Search two years ago, we have now saved these stories and life histories under our various family names, the relatives, including all the ones that I mentioned. This is a legacy and no longer will boxes of family history materials be stored away in a closet, or an attic, at risk to eventually be thrown away from the uninformed of the treasure that they have. Well, no longer! This information can now be preserved, in a way, from around the globe, where people can learn about those loved ones and be inspired by others.
And so, as a result, today, the subject of this podcast is an entirely different dimension of Becoming Your Best. It very much relates because, of course, we want to become our best across the various roles in life – and family is a big role. This one is about writing or recording your personal life history while capturing and preserving the stories of your life and perhaps others dear to you, for your posterity, friends and family, for the vast majority, including future generations you may not now know but one day will!
And your loved ones and these people of the future will learn from you, be inspired by you, and take hope from you. Your stories can live on for hundreds and thousands of years to come and countless lives. Well, how many times, as a young person, have you heard such stories? These are family legends that are told from one family, one generation to the next. And they live on in so many ways and weave into our lives a tapestry of depth, color, strength, humor, inspiration, meaning, connection, and vibrancy. And unless these stories are written down with time, they will be lost. Their history, events, stories, and experiences of life, in turn, give encouragement, perspective, and hope, as we each work on living meaningful and fulfilling lives. We are not alone! We have company. Others have done this and they’ve made it. We’re not the first ones to have a terrible crisis like we’re going through right now. Others have gone through these and they’ve made it! And so, this is such great connectivity!
I’d like to just share a couple of brief examples. One is, I talked about Charles Stackhouse from Illinois, where he went to California for the Gold Rush. I’ll talk about him again in a moment. John Quarles – that’s my grandpa – he was out in the field southeast Colorado, working among the corn stocks and he had melons. And right over him came a flying saucer! It was just a couple of hundred feet over his head and it just stayed there for about 15 minutes. He said it was quiet and silent, but it just hovered there. Many of the neighbors saw it and then off it went. It just was off in a flash. He told about that. Do you think our family believes in flying saucers and people from other worlds? Maybe. Well, that goes a long way. He talked about killing rattlesnakes, and he taught me how to drive a 1954 International Pick-up stick shift. So, these are all things that are in his life history.
Or Roxanne and hers, for example, that we’re working on. About, I’d say, 15 years ago, I was working in my office, and early in the morning, I got up and made some toast. And then I went out and did some exercise. When I came back, there was a sticky note. And the sticky note talked about the crumbs I had left on the counter, and wonderfully taught me how to wipe off the counter and make it crystal clear. “And p.s., whatever you do, don’t sweep them on the floor!” That’s what the little note said. I laughed. And this, by the way, gives you a chance of how to respond, right? Are you going to take responsibility and really listen and be upbeat? Well, I decided I would take the lesson. And so, what I did is I cleaned everything up, and I wrote a note back and I said, “Thank you for the lesson and the instructions on how to clean crumbs up. The vision – nice clean counters with no crumbs on the floor.” And I put a big smiley face. I went back to my office, I heard Roxanne come back in for her exercise, and I could tell she read it because she led out with a big laugh. But never again, since that time, have I left crumbs on the counter, or swept them on the floor.
And so, think of little stories like these that go from generation to generation. Or my wonderful grandma, Viola Pearl Baker Shallenberger talked about her horse Billy, when she was a young girl. And also wrote and had a picture about her and my grandpa visiting Egypt – and they each were sitting on a camel. I will never forget the impact that had. I wanted to do that. So, just a few years ago, my wife and I had the chance to go to Egypt and we have a photo sitting on camels.
So these are all stories that you can relate to, learn from, and in a sense, help you along your journey to becoming your best and living life to the fullest. And because they are, in this case, my ancestors, they mean more to me. And if they were written by your ancestors, they would mean more to you. They tie us together as a family, as humanity, and this gives me encouragement in my life. Now, here are just a few tips on how you can produce your stories, your life history.
First, just start with the basic dates: when you were born, and perhaps several other key dates in your life, such as where you were raised or lived, and where you were married, the birth of your children. Make a list of key events or stories that have been meaningful and fulfilling in your life; successes and failures, and happy memories, life-changing events, things that only you could describe, that may be a blessing for others. You may include photos to complement the stories because we live in a great age of digital photos that maybe our ancestors didn’t have the blessing of. And then, preserve this record for your posterity and others in a way that can benefit from your life’s experiences. You can store the materials under Memories on Family Search. One of my friends, Gardner Russell, a mentor, actually put his in a book, which can be digitized, of course. He printed it. The title was, ‘One Rough Stone’. It was magnificent! So, that’s pretty simple, right? It’s not complicated. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but the art is in the start on this one. And that’s what we do.
And then, the second aspect to this is to help with your ancestors. You can be the catalyst to get this going. I’ve told you about the amazing thing that just happened three weeks ago regarding my grandma, Ethel Margaret Quarles and her life sketch – and it is now an inspiring reality. We all have access to it. I’ve since asked my siblings to help get my father’s life sketch going. And I have three wonderful sisters and two brothers. It’s already in motion and extremely exciting because that currently does not exist at all. He died 28 years ago. Well, this is going to happen and I’m so excited! And I asked my living Quarles – uncles and aunts – to consider doing their personal life history. My uncle Ralph and aunt Bev, who are absolutely amazing. Uncle Ralph is now a young 86 and a half. Bev is just the best. And his brother, my uncle, my mom’s brother, Uncle Willie is now 85 and Aunt Shirley – they have such great stories to tell! And how about Aunt Betty? She’s 92! Well, this is Trudy’s mom and she’s on it.
So, you can see how the snowball goes. Each one has interesting, wonderful lives. And the challenge is, once they are gone and have graduated from this life, we may be able to describe our experiences with them and the stories of experiences with them, but we can never again capture their own feelings and thoughts that could be written by them while they are still alive. And so, that’s why there’s some urgency about this. And I might add, this is a leadership function, all the way: to form an idea, something that does not exist today and make it a reality! This is what leadership is and does.
And, by the way, for those that may be interested, I have an outline of ideas on how to put together your personal history or your story. And the same for loved ones. So, if that may be of value or interest to you, just write to email@example.com – and we will be happy to send that outline along to you.
Well, another enormous benefit of writing your personal history and that of others dear to you, is that it provides you with a perspective of life in a sense of gratitude for all the blessings that you’ve been able to enjoy. In a way, your personal history will have a profound impact on your vision, as it causes you to think about what matters most in life, and how to distinguish yourself in becoming your best from beginning to end.
So, today, I wish to conclude with the stories of two of my ancestors who left their story. The first is my great, great, great grandpa Charles Washington Stackhouse. He was born in 1827, and he died in 1909. Grandpa left a 47-page life story, which included some extraordinary things! For example, he and his family settling 160 miles west of a new little town in the Midwest, by the name of Chicago, Illinois, in the Village of Cambridge. In 1846, at the ripe age of 29, with the vision and desire to have enough money to buy a farm and raise a family, he headed west as part of the California Gold Rush. He described it all! He stayed there for two years, and then finally made it back home to achieve his vision, which he did in an amazing way! His story chronicles his six-month trip across the plains, going to California. His story rivals anything that Louis L’Amour wrote in his novels. They encountered Indian attacks, stampedes, the heartbreaking death of traveling companions, attacks by grizzly bears, seeing Sacramento, California when it was a tent city, and the excitement of finding gold for the first time! The biggest nugget he found was 1.5 ounces in a single find. One big nugget! Charles relates his story of returning home through San Francisco, through Panama, hiking across this narrow little stretch to the other side from the Pacific to the Atlantic, traveling by steamer then to New York City and home. He bought the farm. Well, he didn’t buy the farm. But he bought the farm of his dreams. But he knew something was missing: a wife, a partner and his companion. And so, he found and married a beautiful Swede named Hanna Elm – and they were married for 54 years. He pays such great tribute to her in this story, among these 47 pages, and what a wonderful manager she was and how much she added to their life and how much happiness she brought.
So, if Charles would not have written this, firsthand, we would have lost his entire experience. We could have described what he did but we would have never have had the firsthand account of him standing face-to-face with hostile Indians, armed with bows and arrows and rifles, and then knowing what it felt like. Just think of all the lessons I’ve learned from my own flesh and blood. Good is to write the story of your ancestors. Better is to find personal stories written by your ancestors. And best is writing your story.
So, today, I conclude my comments with the last paragraph from my grandpa John R. Quarles’ life sketch, written in his own hand. It was on a pad of paper of about 15 sheets. I might add that we totally revere and adore my wonderful grandpa. Here is the final paragraph of his life sketch: “I wonder if I have done any good in this life?” Maybe this is a question that you or I may have considered before. I know that I’ve asked it sometimes. Well, rich in family blessings, but modest in earthly possessions as a sweet corn and melon farmer in southeast Colorado, grandpa has made a difference! But he wondered. We hold a Quarles family reunion every two years, and that usually lasts for about three days. We have giant horseshoe tournaments and we dance and we sing and we laugh and we have a great time together. Our last reunion, we had about 130 in attendance. Direct descendants from John and Ethel. This is just the start! How about the next generation and the next? Imagine how many they’ll be! We find in this generation alone, extraordinary individuals, families that have now lived all over the world doing good. They’ve been individuals and parents in our home, quietly serving individuals that have served as leaders in the government at some of the highest levels, public service, teachers, nurses, farmers, construction workers, doctors, leaders in business, and so forth. And then, I think about my grandpa’s last comment, “I wonder if I’ve done any good in this life?” Yes, grandpa, you have!
Thank you, once again to you, for the chance to have had this experience. If it were not for you, the listeners on this podcast – those interested – I would have never had these thoughts, ideas, desire, and experience. And so, I hope in turn, you too, will have a desire to not only complete your story, your life sketch, but where possible help to bring the past creating the life stories of your parents and grandparents and others special to you, that may not be able to complete their story, or that just need a little nudge. You will have a more profound impact, not only on your own life but on countless generations to come. Wishing you a great, safe, and productive day. You are amazing! I compliment you. We compliment you. We’re grateful for the example you are to us! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger for Becoming Your Best Global Leadership.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be! This is Steve Shallenberger, your host! I am grateful to be able to visit with you, especially at such a perilous time in the middle of this pandemic that affects, virtually, the entire world. And, in times of crisis, leadership and management are the most valuable skills that you can have. Leadership provides direction, peace, focus, and clarity, while management provides execution on what matters most. And, right now, we are in the middle of a millennial crisis – the worst economic crisis the world has known in modern times. And there are financial crises, health crises – as we are experiencing during this pandemic – and, in the past, catastrophic war crises. And then, of course, at the same time, there are many that have personal crises. It could be a financial one – you could have lost your job – it could be a relationship that is falling apart or being severely tested, or depression or discouragement, or even personal health issues. So, whether that crisis is on a global level or on a very personal and sometimes private level, it is during these times, that leadership and management are the most valuable skills that you can have.
So, let’s talk about these indispensable qualities and skills. First, I think it’s helpful just to take a moment and offer a definition on leadership and then management. Leadership is really a process of influence, which brings out the best in others towards the achievement of a worthy vision and goals. And lasting leadership stems from mastering habits based upon correct principles that maximize that influence on others versus relying upon title power, or even position. Now, management is the process to plan, organize, coordinate, and empower activities of an individual or a team to achieve the worthy results and objectives. These two powerful skills have an enormous impact on your success, especially in times of crisis and uncertainty. You typically lead people and manage things. I love this quote by Dwight D. Eisenhower: “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” In other words, we provide real leadership that guides people, that inspires people. And, “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who still are undecided”, said Casey Stengel, the famous baseball coach.
Well, so, dependent upon the size and circumstances, this determines what mix of leadership and management is required. And you might think of leadership with the letter ‘L’ – and it could be a big ‘L’ or a medium or smaller ‘L’, depending on the circumstances. So, for example, leadership definitely is direction, it’s vision, it’s goals. Think about this – all of the dimensions of it. It’s trust, it’s character and integrity, and it has all to do with people. It’s maximizing the best in others. It’s about treatment of others. It’s about taking responsibility and the spirit of perseverance and tenacity, to never give up. And, sometimes, these qualities are considered as intangibles. It’s kind of deep within. Warren Bennis said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” See, that’s really an intangible skill. It comes from deep within and it’s all about ourselves and how we interface with other people and where we go. That’s leadership.
Management, if we’re thinking of it as the letter ‘M’ – and it could be a big ‘M’ or a medium or small ‘M’, dependent on function and focus. So, this is all about the execution of the direction, which is the vision, goals, plans, etc. These are about things, statistics, profit and loss, wins and losses, they’re numbers, they’re systems, they’re staying on track and making necessary adjustments to adapt to change to the crisis and uncertainty. And it’s managing by the essential basics to be exceptional at what you do. And frequently, these qualities are considered tangibles. They’re things we do. And so, leadership is doing the right things, and management is doing things right.
I love what Lyndon B Johnson, the former president of the United States said, “Doing what’s right isn’t the problem – it is knowing what is right.” He is spot-on on that! And Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had so many wonderful quotes and insights. He said this: “Divide and rule is a sound motto, but unite and lead is a better one.” And that is the inspiring way. We have some great examples of that in history. One is Maria Theresa of Austria. I’ll just tell you a little about her, how she’s done that. Just think about these two now: leadership skill, management skill, crisis, and how it can win the day. So, in 1740, she inherited the rule of her country – Austria – that was penniless and poorly governed. And though her father had ensured her succession, he had not educated her on matters of the state. She eventually chose her own advisors and delegated responsibility. She turned around the economy, revitalized the military, and instituted mandatory public education for both boys and girls in her country. She held on to her rule amidst two wars, and managed all of this while giving birth to 16 children! I mean, this is really a great example of what I’m talking about – exercising the skill of leadership and management; all these things we just discussed, to get the reality of the vision in mind.
Oprah Winfrey is another contemporary, wonderful example of using both of these. She had the longest-running daytime talk show on television, she’s broadcast in 145 countries around the world, and it’s easy to recount the leadership of this incredible woman! Beginning her life in poverty, she went on to become the single wealthiest Afro-American and has, in turn, dedicated herself to trying to lift others out of poverty as well. And she established the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls and invested over $40 million of her own money. Now, these are wonderful examples. We can think of others, historically. Again, think of the skills – leadership and management – Mahatma Gandhi, George Washington, Abe Lincoln, each in their own crises; Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Paul Kagame, Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa. You also know, in addition to these few, that there are many more that I haven’t mentioned: corporate examples, civic examples, science, and medicine. But you also know many people that are magnificent, inspired, courageous leaders that do it in a very private way. And that many don’t even know their names. They’re found among the moms and the dads, the grandparents, the coaches, teachers, individual workers that make a difference.
So, as we reflect upon the crisis we’re in today, and as we reflect upon crises over history and moving forward, it gives us this clear perspective of what saves the day, what really helps us win the day. And so, I’d like to talk about two aspects of that and build upon our discussion thus far. One, what can you do? Here is the first of the two things that YOU can do. One is, exercise magnificent, inspired, courageous leadership. Be determined you will not sit on the sideline, but you will stand up in a very specific way. And I might add that if you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, what can I do to exercise magnificent, inspired, courageous leadership?” I would suggest to you that this is not a guessing game. We know what the principles are. As you know, we have done 40 years of research on this very subject of what sets apart, over time – and this is over hundreds of years, thousands of years – the very best from all the rest. And we consistently saw 12 things. We’ve called them the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. And this is what we put in our book, “Becoming Your Best”. It is a landmark because these are principles that every single one of us can master and the result is that allows us to exercise magnificent, inspired, courageous leadership. We’re the ones that stand to go forward. And so, one of the things that you can do is be sure that you understand those 12 principles, both yourself and those that you work with.
I had the opportunity to write the book based upon this leadership – certainly with the help of our team – but I go back and review these principles, regularly. Just two weeks ago, I finished the Audible on “Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles”, and it inspired me to do these very things that we’re talking about. So, review them frequently. Let them work for you, and in you. Review a principle a week. Inspire your team and fellow workers to apply the same principles with one aim: magnificent, inspired, courageous leadership to do something about it. And then, you stand up and provide that kind of leadership, especially through the dark times. And in the process, you will bless everybody that you associate with.
I like this comment: “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” And from A Bug’s Life, “The first rule of leadership: everything is your fault.” Well, what’s that saying is that you take responsibility for the outcome. And this is the very message that we’re saying. Leadership helps you to create your future versus cowering in the corner or becoming immobilized by fear, inaction, or confusion. So, be relentless in finding solutions. Having a warrior spirit. It’s simply, NO QUIT! And these are powerful things. These are the intangibles we talk about. We’re at least determined we’re going to be in the arena and we try.
And the other aspect in this process of magnificent, wonderful leadership, is to be good and to do good across all roles. And we just do this while we’re living life and doing what matters most, day in and day out. And the end result is it lifts everyone around us and it lifts the world that we are in, in the process. I’ll just give three brief examples from one of our companies. This is an energy services company. Here are the three examples: The first, a message from a customer. One of our associates, a technician from synergy companies was riding on the highway in California and noticed a car pulled over and there was smoke coming out from under the hood. He quickly pulled behind the car, got out his fire extinguisher, he lifted the hood and put out the fire. He said, “Okay, everything’s secure.” And he looked at the people as everything was secure, he says, “Okay, everything’s just fine. It’s time for me to go back to work.” He didn’t share his name or anything else. He got into his van and off he went. Well, on the van was the company number, and these people quickly copied it down, they called our office and they said, “We would just like to thank you today for sending a guardian angel.” This is the example of, you just do good. You look for opportunities.
We have a number of offices throughout California. This came from another office, and it was a lady who wrote on Facebook. She went to the Facebook page for our company and she said, “I have not done work with your company before, but I just want you to know I happened to be in a Starbucks drive-thru line today. One of your workers paid for the following five people behind him in the Starbucks line. And I just want to thank you for having such an awesome company!” Well, now, we didn’t ask that particular worker to do that, but see the impact that this has on, virtually, everybody?
And the third example that I wish to give is about one of our workers. We had done some work at a school. And this was related to us by the inspector of the work – after the work is done, there’s an independent inspector that goes by, and this is what was told. He said that “D., your worker was there to meet the maintenance man who would open the gate to go into the school so that the inspection could take place. And, as that took place, D. noticed that the maintenance man got out of his car, went to open the big gate, unlock the gate for the school, and as he did, D. noticed somehow the car got engaged in ‘drive’ and was heading straight towards the maintenance man. And D. shouted, ‘Look out! Look out!’ And the maintenance man dove to the ground to avoid the car. D. rushed over and secured the car, he shut it off, and didn’t think anything else about it.” The maintenance man told this to the inspector when he got there, and he said “Today, D. saved me. I certainly would have ended up in the hospital if not much worse!”
Now, these are just little things, right? It’s having a heads up, it’s looking to do good. It might be a compliment, recognizing the good in other people, but these are examples of magnificent, inspiring, courageous leadership. We’re just in the game, we’re doing the things that this kind of leadership does: it’s integrity, it’s leading with a vision, it’s having clear goals and a plan. It’s doing consistently because you have this skill to point to the direction to do what matters most. It’s how you treat other people. It’s living the golden rule, and it’s building trust. And one of the great ways to build trust is taking time to be a good communicator. And, once you have these set up, now you have a culture of high innovation and inspiring people to use their imaginations, which helps solve the problems of the day – it teaches you how to do it. It’s about taking responsibility for the outcome, and always gaining knowledge so that you have new and fresh ideas – and applying that knowledge. And then, in the whole process of everything, living in peace and balance in the middle of the battle and the fire, and never giving up. These are the qualities that we’re talking about. You can see how they create a special leadership, a direction.
Well, the second thing we’d recommend today for you, that you can do – one is to have that kind of leadership. Number two is to manage to solid business basics. Now, I’m going to use business basics even though they really change depending on whether you’re doing this at home as a parent, or as a team, a coach, a teacher. What are your basics? Well, I can tell you what the basics were for Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach. At the beginning of each season, even though his team had just won the National Championship the year before, he would walk into the first practice the next year, and, as he walked into the locker room, he’d be holding a football. And everybody was anxious, especially the new people. And he’d hold the football high and he’d say, “This is a football! And this is how we win national championships. It’s all about blocking, tackling, and execution.” Well, that’s what manage into solid business basics would be in the football world.
Well, in business, it’s the fastest way to cash. It’s exhausting every way possible to grow your business. And cash is king, especially in a financial crisis like this. And then, systems and people, and place to grow your revenues, collecting your accounts receivables, watching your key numbers, knowing what your deposits are, knowing what your cash flow is, the payroll numbers, and the materials. And, let’s say it’s a sales organization. Okay, how many sales a day do you need to win the day, to be successful? How much is the average sale? What’s your closing rate? Let’s say you’re a production team. What are your goals? How many texts do you need to meet the goal? How many jobs a day do you need? What’s the average revenue per job? If you’re a hotel/motel owner, like Cal Clark, our wonderful friend who did such a great job! I could sit down with him and he would tell me for five years, “Here’s the occupancy rates, here’s the cost per room, here’s the advertising, and here’s what we lose if we don’t fill up that room that night.” He knew every detail, and so he managed to these business basics.
Or on a personal level, for example, are you managing your time to consistently do what matters most? Do you have a process? Do you break it down? So, this is managing to the solid business basics of whatever you want to be excellent at. And, when you’re working with other people, you’re the leader, right? Well, mind your strategy, have this crystal clear. And we, of course, at Becoming Your Best, teach about the pyramid of the strategic plan and align, but it’s essentially this – and we have it clear in mind, this is what you want to do to manage to these things. Here’s the vision, right? That’s leadership. Here are our core values. Leadership. Here are TIGs – totally inspirational goals. We’re moving down the pyramid and moving towards the base of it. And each one of these slices is important. Here are the annual goals; now, this is where the first three – vision, core values, TIGs – those are a large L. Well, now we move to annual goals and the L becomes a little smaller and the M starts growing because here’s what we need to do to execute on that vision. Here are our quarterly goals and now you’re moving to a large M, the L is making the adjustments. And then, what are you doing today? That’s almost totally M. Once it’s clear where “the L” you’re going. But you want to have that L clearly out there because then it helps you to have the large M and make it a reality. And especially in a world of turbulence and rapid change. I like this quote by Robert Bloch: “The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone else to blame it on!” In leadership and management, there is no one else to blame it on. You take full responsibility.
And the last subset of this manage into a solid business is, you want to stay ahead of the tsunami – move and take action, recognize when the tide goes out. And there’s certain signs there that there’s a tsunami coming. So, you adapt, you pivot, you take action, and you have a process to make decisions. And that is where the ‘Six steps to effectively plan, create solutions, and take action’ can be a great resource for you because now you have a way to manage around all the things that change constantly as we’re going through the early part of the Coronavirus, every single week. We had a different scenario, didn’t we? We had a different set of rules. It was this way and then the next week it would change and, oh my goodness! This is exactly what is required.
Now, these two are so powerful together! Magnificent, inspired, courageous leadership – the direction – and wonderful management to solid business basics, however that looks in your world. Now, the greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He or she is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things, including yourself in the process. Now, what is needed in a time of crisis and uncertainty? The majestic skill of leadership and the indispensable skill of management will help you win the day!
And I’d like to conclude today’s podcast with one last example that helps illustrate these points, these skills, and practice. It happens to be with Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who was an officer in the Union Army in the Civil War. Now, just keep in mind the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders, which helps then contribute to the majestic, inspiring, courageous leadership in the time of crisis and the time of need; and also applying the basic essential management skills needed – and to do them well and consistently, to win the day, to have a glorious outcome.
The timing of this experience that I’m going to share with Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain happened just a couple of days before the Battle of Gettysburg. The Lieutenant Colonel Chamberlain and his platoon were outside about a day from Gettysburg, and another officer came up with 136 soldiers, set them under a tree, under armed guard. He came up to Lieutenant Colonel Chamberlain and said, “These are Union Army soldiers who declare they would no longer fight. They want to go home. We’re shifting the command to you. They’re scoundrels. You can shoot them if you want to shoot them, but they’re not worth anything.” And then, the former leader left. Lieutenant Colonel Chamberlain, first of all, after he tended to his business, invited the leader of the group into his tent. He heard the grievances, he took time to understand. And then, he went over and addressed the entire 136 of these individuals. He talked about the purpose of the Civil War and how it was “freedom for all”. And it wasn’t about land and it wasn’t about money. He said, “This is a different cause!” And then he went on to say that they had established their platoon of 1000 people a year ago. He said, “We’re now down to 300 people. Now, we are going to go to a battle on Gettysburg. This very well may determine the fate of not only the battle, but the entire Civil War and the future of the United States of America. Now, I can’t force you to fight, but I can tell you we’re short-handed, and if you would be willing to join us, we’ll give you your arms back and nobody will say anything else about what’s happened in the past. And as a personal favor, I want you to know, I would much appreciate it!” And he walked away.
Just then, they had the sound to congregate and march into Gettysburg. That was the command that came to him. And so, he had them all get up, and he rode to the front of the whole platoon with his 300 and these other individuals. His assistant came up, he says, “You’re not going to believe this! 130 men chose to take up their arms again.” Now, think of the magnificent, inspiring, courageous leadership. It’s all about people. It’s about bringing the best out in others. It’s about helping define and see the vision, the direction that can make a difference, that moves you and it moves the other people.
Well, they were assigned to a location on the battlefield called Little Round Top. It’s a mountain, an area that is above the battlefield. His commander said, “You simply cannot lose this vantage point because whoever has this vantage point, will command the battlefield!” Now, with his added 130 – the other six just sat there – and his 300, they took their position on the very flank on July 2nd, 1863. Chamberlain was posted on this federal line at Little Round Top, just in time to face the Confederate General John B. Hood. I mean, this is a legendary general! The attack was on the Union flank. They were attacked again, and again, and again, and they were exhausted after repulsing repeated assaults. The 20th main, out of ammunition, quickly, Chamberlain got his leaders together. They had lost over half of their men in these attacks! He looked around to those six, he says, “This is your last time!” And four of them got up, said, “We don’t have any guns!” He said, “Just wait a minute, and you’ll have guns!” And so, exhausted after this, they all reported their ammunition was out. They just had very low ammunition. He said, “We are going to execute a bayonet charge. They’ve got to be just as worn out as we are!”
And so, he commanded his one officer that it would be like a pincher coming down the left side, a gate swinging in, and he would command the others coming straight down at them. They looked up, and the enemy was coming again. He said, “Move! We’ve got to go! Now!” And after they did this, they ran down the hill, they fixed their bayonets, and he said, “Charge!” and they dislodged the attackers, and they secured General Meade’s embattled left. They won the day on Little Round Top, denying the Confederates the high ground. This arguably was one of the major, decisive factors for winning the battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War. It was a turning point. Now, just think about the power of this type of leadership we’re talking about. First of all, if he had not exercised this type of leadership with those 136 soldiers, he probably would not have been able to hold out on the Little Round Top. And then, upon Little Round Top, after losing half of his forces, being out of ammunition, he did both: he led the leadership, he executed the management of what they had, and won the day!
So, in the middle of this pandemic, there is fear and loneliness, discouragement, and uncertainty. So, what are you to do? You be the one to stand up and make a difference! And in the years to come, what will people say about how you responded? And what will you say about yourself and how you responded to one of the world’s worst crises of a millennium? You could say, “We were in the arena. That was our moment, and we’re proud of our actions and our efforts onward to victory!” And this will be part of your legacy.
Well, it has been such a pleasure and honor to be together with you today. We wish you the very best as you work on these and exercise these wonderful skills. I admire you for being on this podcast, for your efforts, and we wish you a great day and a great future!
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